Whenever a major event happens – good or bad – the first thing everyone wants to know is where you were. Where were you when JFK died? Where were you when President Reagan said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”? Where were you when the Towers fell? Good or bad, we remember where we were because we don’t want to forget how we felt at that moment. A moment of joy or a moment of complete and utter sorrow, remembering where we were helps keep the memory alive forever.
12 years ago I was newly laid off and planning my wedding. I was in an emotional limbo – caught between wanting (needing) a job and having fun with my time “off” focusing entirely on wedding plans. I was mildly apathetic and lazy from having far too much free time but absolutely no money to enjoy it. I got up early that morning for reasons I’ve long since forgotten. I was sitting, slouched in the recliner watching TV and eating cereal when the news broke. There was something happening in New York, confusion about the information that’s being delivered, a plane has been hijacked? The reports were scattered and hectic. Whatever it was, it was horrible. I was still only half awake at 8:46 a.m. when I saw American Airlines Flight 11 crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 17 minutes later, I watched as United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I watched it live on TV.
12 years later even typing those six words give me chills.
It’s something that I, and anyone who experienced that event, will never forget. But surprisingly, it’s not just the tragedy we remember. It’s the unmatched heroicism of the first responders, the police, fire deparments, the EMS and the brave civilian men and women who ran toward danger that day instead of away from it. We remember how for the first time in a very long time, our divided nation came together as one. And side-by-side we vowed to honor the names and the memories of those who lost their lives in this stupid and senseless tragedy.
This year, on the 12th anniversary of 9/11, members of the Detroit Police Department and Detroit Fire Department along with Detroit’s Mayor Dave Bing, and Acting Special Agent in Charge John R. Shoup from the FBI were on hand at Campus Martius in Detroit to pay tribute to the first responders and innocent men, women and children who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
Lead by Leiutenant Mary Thomas from the Detroit Police Department, every speaker had their own special message they delivered to the crowd this afternoon, but the resounding theme was the same – “Good will always triumph over bad.” Mayor Dave Bing put it best when he asked us if adversity was good or bad? Adversity increases our ability to respond, to persevere and to meet the challenges of life head on. We must embrace adversity to rise from despair and become better and stronger because of it.
Each speaker’s message was powerful and poignant, reminding us that we are here today to honor the spirit of sacrifice and courage that was displayed by those first responders and men and women who turned and ran to help their co-workers, their friends, strangers, their fellow New Yorkers. On that day we weren’t individuals. We were one country grieving for our collective loss. And today was a reminder that we can’t forget. We need to stand together united because divided we fall. We owe it to those men, women and children who lost their lives 12 years ago today.